Kalman Donick

Kalman Donick

Birth
Death 25 Mar 1911 (aged 23–24)
Greenwich Village, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Richmond, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, USA
Memorial ID 10987004 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Victim of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. The company made women's blouses, known as "waists" or "shirtwaists", and it's workers were mostly recent immigrant German, Italian and European Jewish girls, some as young as 13 years old, although older women, men and young boys were also represented. Their working conditions were far from safe. They worked 14 hour shifts among heaps of flammable bolts of fabric, scraps of which piled up in bins, baskets and on the floor around them; tissue paper patterns hung from racks above their worktables. The workrooms were lit by open flame gas lamps and the cutters, mostly men, were allowed to smoke as they worked. Brought on by a New York garment workers strike in 1910, many had joined the fledgling International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. At the conclusion of the strike, most companies had signed agreements with the union improving working conditions. The Triangle Company, however, refused to sign and was under no obligation to abide by established safety rules.

On March 25, 1911, around 4:30pm, fire broke out on the 8th floor. Most on that floor and the executives on the 10th floor were able to escape, but workers on the 9th floor, who had not been alerted to the fire, found themselves trapped. Of the four 9th floor exits, the elevators made as many trips as they could but were commandeered by 8th floor workers and then stopped working altogether, one stairwell door was soon blocked by fire and smoke, the other stairwell door had been locked (although denied by the owners in their subsequent trial, it was common practice to lock factory workers in to prevent them from stealing) and the only fire escape collapsed under the weight of the escaping workers. Many died from being overcome by the smoke and flames quickly filling the building, some leapt down the elevator shafts, but 62 workers realized there was no other means of escape and jumped from the windows to the pavement 9 stories below. Or worse, they were pushed toward the open windows by the panicked crowd and had no choice. The fire department responded quickly, but their hoses' spray could not reach the top floors and ladders of the time were unable to reach above the 6th floor. By the time the fire was extinguished, 141 people had lost their lives. In the next few days, 5 more would die from their injuries.

From information on his death certificate, Kalman may have chosen to jump to escape the flames. He appears as Case #18 in the April 1912 Report of the Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee: "A man, 27 years old, was killed, leaving a wife and baby of n (sic) months. He had earned good wages, $14.00-$20.00 per week. The wife young, apparently intelligent but without knowledge of English was for several weeks hysterically anxious to get her plans for the future settled. She went from one office to another to get advice as to what she could do to support herself. At first she wanted to be established in a stationery store, but it soon appeared that her health had suffered so seriously from the shock that she was not in condition to undertake anything. Through the summer her expenses were paid in the country. In November she was still unable to work, in the opinion of a physician who gave her a careful examination, and she seemed to have lost her ambition to become self-supporting. A monthly allowance is being paid through the winter and at the end of that time it is expected that her health will be restored and she will be able to take up some occupation. She is under the care of the United Hebrew Charities, who have advised in regard to her from the first. $320.00 was expended up to November; $1000.00 was then sent to the United Hebrew Charities for further living expenses and to establish the woman in business when her health is restored; and $2000.00 was placed with that society as a trust fund for the child. ($3320.00)"

Family lore tells the story that after Kalman's tragic death, his older brother Harry immigrated from Russia, married Sarah and raised their daughter, Lillian, as his own. Harry's grandchildren never knew the story until after his death in 1963.

The public outrage following the tragedy and subsequent acquittal of the company's owners paved the way for a flood of legislation to improve factory safety and hastened the growth and clout of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. A bystander who witnessed the workers jumping from the windows was inspired to a life of public service fighting for the rights of factory workers; Frances Perkins went on to become the first woman appointed to a Presidential Cabinet position as Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was the most deadly workplace disaster in New York City until the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.


Sponsored by Ancestry

Advertisement

Plan a visit to Kalman Donick?

Advertisement

Advertisement

  • Maintained by: TomDuse
  • Originally Created by: Jennifer
  • Added: 18 May 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10987004
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Kalman Donick (1887–25 Mar 1911), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10987004, citing Mount Richmond Cemetery, Richmond, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, USA ; Maintained by TomDuse (contributor 46954032) .